Scientists from a food research center in Wales are handing out fridge thermometers as part of a food safety research project.

Researchers from the ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre at Cardiff Metropolitan University will be giving out thermometers during the Amgueddfa Cymru Food Festival in Cardiff on Sept. 9.

As part of the “Is your fridge cold enough?” project, 1,000 people will get a free thermometer to take home. They will be asked to upload information about the temperature of their fridge to an online portal. 

Data collection started at another event in August, where 500 thermometers were distributed. Work continues into October, after which data analysis will take place and findings will be prepared as an abstract for presentation at the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) conference in 2024.

The citizen science project aims to obtain information about the operating temperatures of as many fridges as possible to determine if they are storing food safely. People who take part will be entered into a competition to win one prize of a £100 voucher ($125).

How to take part
Scientists will talk people through what they need to do and there will be a bilingual information sheet as part of the thermometer pack. Participants need to put the thermometer in the fridge door storage area and leave the door closed for at least 15 minutes. Past research has found the door of the refrigerator to be the warmest place in the fridge.

Then they should open the fridge and take a picture of the temperature on the thermometer.

Participants either scan the QR code or visit the web address on the information sheet to upload an image of the temperature displayed. On the portal there are questions regarding demographics, the temperature, and refrigeration practices. The portal to submit temperature information will remain open until October 9.

When a temperature above the recommended 5 degrees C (41 degrees F) is recorded, people are told that having a fridge operating at this level can encourage food poisoning organisms and spoilage bacteria to grow quicker. The portal also tells participants that they can reduce the risk of illness and help prevent food waste by gradually adjusting the dial, so temperature on the thermometer is 5 degrees C or less.

Benefit of citizen science projects
To take part in the project, visit ZERO2FIVE’s researchers in the Good Food Cardiff Zone area at the food festival in St Fagans National Museum of History.

Previous ZERO2FIVE research has found that people trust their fridges to ensure food is safe to eat, often without checking they are functioning at the correct temperature. Most households do not have refrigerator thermometers, meaning people may be storing food above the recommended 5 degrees C (41 degree F). This can lead to faster growth of spoilage and food poisoning bacteria.

Ellen Evans, who is leading the project, said: “This exciting citizen science project will give people a chance to take part in important research, but most importantly it will enable people to check whether their fridge is operating at a safe temperature and potentially reduce their risk of getting food poisoning. Fridge thermometers are an invaluable tool, and this is a great opportunity to get hold of one for free.” 

Meanwhile, the UK Association for Food Protection Conference has been scheduled at the All Nations Centre in Cardiff on Nov. 22, 2023. Speakers and the final program have yet to be confirmed.

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